Gridiron Nation: So much for the status quo

first_imgThe first eight weeks of the 2011 college football season had remained status quo for the most part. Teams that were supposed to win week after week were meeting expectations by dispatching opponents deemed weaker, according to media and coaches’ polls.The top 10 ranked teams in the country had been holding such a tight rank-and-file order for so many weeks that a lot of good teams were probably finding the prospect of climbing into position for a BCS title shot rather difficult. Until Saturday, teams like Boise State, Clemson, Stanford, Kansas State and even a one-loss Oregon team were like cats at Coastal Carolina coach David Bennett’s screen door, trying to claw their way through.But all hell broke loose with Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins’ heave at the last second to beat No. 4 Wisconsin. A couple of hours later, unranked Texas Tech held on to defeat No. 3 Oklahoma, snapping the Sooners’ 39-game home winning streak. Before that point, only two top-10 teams had been beaten by a lower-ranked team all season.Suddenly, two AP top-five teams had gone down and eased the pressure on a team like Boise State, who always faces the prospect of being leapfrogged because it plays in a weak conference and faces other undefeated teams who finally had some space to move up.The excitement is only going to grow with the guarantee that LSU or Alabama will lose in eight days’ time, creating another chance for upward momentum.A lot of games remain to be played, and a lot could happen before a slew of bowl berths are handed out like candy on Halloween, but the few select teams at the top are looking for something a little sweeter than an apple in their candy bag.Working up the BCS rankings ladder is what each team ranked from No. 1 to No. 8 have to handle in their search for eternal glory. For all practical purposes, LSU and Alabama are 1 and 1A respectively. Both have a bye week before the inevitable matchup on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama hasn’t lost at home since falling to Auburn 28-27 last November and LSU last won at Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2007.Mix in Alabama’s No. 1 ranked defense in terms of points allowed per game and put them in a raucous home environment, and No. 1 LSU appears to be walking right into a buzz saw.A loss at this point in the season would be pretty tough for LSU to recover from, especially without a conference title game to play in, and neither Alabama nor LSU has an extremely difficult schedule from that point forward. The winner is on the fast track and the loser looks headed for a second-rate bowl game (at least compared to the BCS Championship game).No. 3 Oklahoma State: There has probably never been another third-ranked team sitting in as sweet a position as the Cowboys. Now resting on the outside looking in, Oklahoma State almost knows for certain that winning out its remaining schedule makes them a lock for the BCS title game.Of the six computers that collaborate to determine the overall BCS computer rankings, five have the Cowboys ranked No. 1 in the country and the sixth has them at No. 2. As screwed up as many think the BCS system is, OK State has to absolutely love it right now.Unfortunately for Oklahoma State, it probably has the toughest remaining schedule of any top-eight team – home vs. Baylor, home vs. No. 8 Kansas State, at No. 20 Texas Tech who just beat Oklahoma and home vs. the No. 9 Sooners are four of the last five games on the Cowboys’ schedule. Running the table could not be much more difficult.No. 4 Boise State: Apart from an intriguing game against TCU, the Broncos have a cakewalk for a schedule. Probably moving into the top-three after the LSU/Alabama showdown, Boise will almost surely go undefeated and still have to rely on the loss of a couple more teams to finally make their long-awaited chance to raise the glass football.No. 5 Clemson: Here is an upstart team. Not even ranked until week four, the Tigers are rapidly proving themselves to be a powerhouse to be reckoned with, showcasing an explosive offense led by sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd and freshman receiver Sammy Watkins.Three of its final four games are on the road, including a regular season finale at No. 13 South Carolina. It will be interesting to see if the youthful core of this team can hold up against the rigors of three road games and a possible ACC Championship game. If it can, Clemson could jump Boise State and find itself in top-three, just needing one team to stumble to make a name for the ACC.No. 6 Stanford: As the season transpires, Stanford is looking better and better. Just look at the shellacking it put on Washington, running for 446 yards while allowing Andrew Luck to sit back and relax. A lot of things have to go right, including winning the Pac-12, but Stanford has the talent.No. 7 Oregon: The opening week loss to LSU hurts, but winning the Pac-12 over Stanford and some good fortune from other teams losing at the end mean it’s not over ’til it’s over for the Ducks.No. 8 Kansas State: It might seem unlikely to move from No 8. to No. 1 over the remainder of the season, but K-State has four consecutive games against ranked opponents to show what it is made of. Knocking off Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the next two games certainly will be a challenge, but if the Wildcats prevail they will receive a huge boost in all three polls that determine the BCS average.The nation should be prepared for a scintillating finish to the college football season, and the best part of the race to come is no one knows how the rankings will finish or which team will come down with the next landscape-altering Hail Mary.Brett is a senior majoring in journalism. Think you know who will win the Alabama/LSU game or which other team may rise to the top by the end of the year? Let Brett know at [email protected] or on Twitter @BAsportswriter.last_img

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